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"The Shadow Catcher" by Marianne Wiggins

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This book has everything needed to inspire our awe and gratitude. Not only does it contain two related story lines set a hundred years apart, memorable and sometimes hilarious dialog, and vivid storytelling, it also reverberates with lofty and elegant tropes, one of which is the author's lengthy and convincing intrusion. Marianne Wiggins, the honored author of "Evidence of Things Unseen" hits an even deeper home run with "The Shadow Catcher."

The paired story lines follow Edward S. Curtis, visionary photographer of nature and Native Americans at the turn of the 20th Century, and one Marianne Wiggins, a character in her own book - portrayed as an aspiring screenwriter working on a potential biopic of - Edward S. Curtis. Early in the book, the author describes Curtis's life and how potentially ripe it would be for a screenplay. She seems fairly convinced any film Hollywood would produce on Curtis would miss the mark badly, and then proceeds with the Curtis narrative, which proves why she's right. The Edward-and-Clara Curtis plotline is first-rate storytelling (not quite to the level of Ray and Opal Foster, but then, what is?). We watch as Clara and Edward form a partnership and a marriage; Edward becomes famous and acquainted with early conservationists, and Teddy Roosevelt (for whose daughter's wedding he was the official photographer), and J. P. Morgan. Clara deals with the three children and the household (mortgaged to the eaves by his grand schemes); her lot is nothing as fortunate as Curtis's own (which is in fact not very fortunate at all).

Ms. Wiggins propounds the theme of abandonment in both stories. Curtis leaves his wife and children for years at a stretch, and Wiggins's father left his own lonely marriage to commit suicide thirty-some years prior to the events in this book. She deals very immediately with the syndrome of "lighting out for the territories." Some people - she cites Huck Finn and his bete noir, the civilizing Aunt Sally - find they must run from some monster or other. Eventually, for both Curtis and Marianne's father, it is a loveless, lonesome marriage.
Ms. Wiggins intersperses some of Curtis's classic photographs in the text, and this adds power and immediacy to the book. Her canny tricks and tromps add an echoing depth, and challenge her reader to find the boundaries of belief. This is not gratuitous fun from our dazzling author. This is serious business, in the service of serious ideas. It thrills as it entertains as it makes us reflect on the moral implications. Can't say enough good things about this. I could never get it to the end of my own thoughts. Pick it up and see what you think!
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